How much bad news do you need? How much good news? And is there a right mix? More personally, have you found it? And to get practical, might an imbalanced intake-ratio of bad and good news magnify your troubles and minimize your faithfulness?
God doesn’t want people to be uninformed. Hearing some bad news allows us to sympathize with mistreated people around the world (Heb. 13:3). And we need to know enough for us to respond faithfully to the troubles that actually confront us. But we should not be ignorant about how bad and good news affects our walk with the Lord.
The Power of News
Proverbs 12:25 reports the impact that news has on us: “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” By using parallelism, the main feature of Hebrew poetry, Solomon contrasts several ideas to help convey the meaning of the larger thought. “Anxiety” is contrasted with “a good word”; there is an oil-versus-water tension between the two. Good words can mitigate the trouble in a person’s heart. The phrase “weighs him down” spars with “makes him glad.” News can make us either downcast and discouraged or upbeat and hopeful.
The prophet Jeremiah illustrates the power of bad news. Two powerful cities of Syria “are confounded, for they have heard bad news; they melt in fear, they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet” (Jer. 49:23). When Scripture paints a word picture we should imagine it. Bad news washes over us one wave of anxiety after another. By contrast, Solomon says that good news is like “cold water to a thirsty soul” (Prov. 25:25). Water soothes a parched mouth; good news satisfies the soul.
We are profoundly shaped by the news we hear. It can slowly, imperceptibly make us more hopeful or fearful, loving or hateful, generous or miserly, compassionate or inflexible. You might not notice how you are being shaped by the news you take in. But your friends and social media followers could probably identify your major news sources based on how you are rebroadcasting.
The “Good Word” You Need
The gospel is literally the proclamation of good news. The gospel is not a command. It is a report: God has sent Jesus to rescue us from our sins! Our glad, believing reception of that report transforms us! Jesus came “to sustain with a word him who is weary” (Is. 50:4). God’s Spirit anointed him “to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). To flourish God says we need to hear and believe good news.
So what news do we need most especially during an avalanche of bad news? Here’s a good place to start:
- God is sovereign. Disease spreads no further than God allows (Job 2:6). The influence of government is always limited by God’s permission (John 19:10). Neither of these truths allow us to be careless or reckless. But bad news becomes less sovereign, less ultimate when heard through the grid of God’s sovereignty.
- God is good. God’s sovereignty would be no comfort if he were a tyrant. But “Good and upright is the Lord” (Ps. 25:8). Though he sends us hardships to humble us he never devises evil (Jer. 29:11).
- God loves his children. God is not just good in general; he truly, profoundly, eternally loves his children. He sympathizes with our pains (Act 9:4). And because he loves us, he is preparing an eternal world of comfort for us.
Basic theology right? Don’t we already know it? Do we really need more of this? Jesus did. The gospels record two occasions when God spoke to Jesus for all to hear–at his baptism and transfiguration. The Father knew that with all the bad news confronting his son what he needed was good news. And that’s what Jesus heard: You are my son. I am still with you. I love you (Mark 1:11; 9:7). If the eternal Christ needed good news don’t we need it even more?
How to Be Good News People
News is powerful. Bad news erodes our joy. Good news fortifies our spirits. Might this reality suggest certain changes we should make?
Limit Your Consumption of Bad News
The accessibility of news has convinced us that we need to know whatever is being communicated. And then repeat it. We don’t. We need to know enough news to inform us of our specific responsibilities. It has been proven that media outlets push bad news to sell more news. Unless we are very careful, simply consuming more news means that we will take in imbalanced negativity.
Immerse Yourself in Good News
You not only need to believe the gospel, you need to keep hearing good news. It needs to be like a steady, stiff breeze that resists encroaching negativity. Studying the Bible, listening to sermons, and reading edifying literature is vital; we simply cannot take in too much good news. As a remedy to anxiety God urges believers to focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8). Good news has life-giving power to off-set all the bad news poor and weary people are accustomed to. And if professional news outlets are biased to be bad, we need a bias for good, gospel-centered news. Researches have even suggested that for most of us to tip from languishing to flourishing we need three times as much good news as bad.
Communicate Good News
We are all news makers. But what kind of news are we making? Christians especially should celebrate beauty, compliment rather than criticize, and repeat the best news of the day. If we share in Christ’s anointing as prophets, we are partners with him in sustaining with a word those who are weary (Is. 50:4). We too have good news to tell to the poor (Luke 4:18). News as good as we have heard is meant to be shared!